Labor Day is a day of relaxation for Americans. It is a day to celebrate with friends and families. It is a day to be thankful for the jobs we have but also a day to remember to unwind and enjoy life.
Labor Day can remind mothers of a different kind of labor too. It can remind mothers of the pain, sacrifice, and effort we give in childbirth. It can remind mothers that our labor of love results in immeasurable rewards. Labor Day can be a time to reflect on the moment a sweet, slippery, pure piece of yourself was placed on your chest. It can remind you of looking down into wide eyes that focused solely on you in adoring wonder.
Labor day can remind you that God created you to do amazing things!
For many moms, labor is hours of intense pain and hard work followed by a period of mixed emotions: amazement, fear, joy, let down, hope, overwhelm, unity, isolation, wonder, awe, inadequacy, and omnipotency. It is a period of experiencing love like you’ve never known before and never will again.
There were probably times during and after labor that you felt closer to your husband than you ever felt before. That closeness comes from knowing only the two of you and God could have made this incredibly fragile and precious human being. There were also probably times you felt your husband didn’t understand and couldn’t do anything right.
There may have been times you wondered how you would all survive.
There were probably times you looked into your baby’s eyes and felt you could do anything and other times you wondered how you could do anything at all!
Technically, labor ends when the baby is born, but for many moms those emotions continue on a lesser scale long past the postpartum period. The hard work of labor and delivery passes quickly, but the sometimes grueling and tedious task of mothering then begins.
What’s more, the balance of power in the home is not always as “balanced” as we would like it to be or as many proclaim it is. While political parties hash out arguments about equal pay in the workforce, few are studying the division of labor in the home and how that affects women longterm.
A study published by Ohio State’s New Parents Project does just that.
Ohio State’s New Parents Project studied how fathers and mothers divide their time after childbirth. Participants self-reported what they did each day and how long they did it. To be included, participants had to be highly educated, first-time parents who worked full-time and were either married or living together. Study conductors felt this demographic was most likely to divide work equally. Participants also self-reported their strong belief in an equal division of responsibility within the home.
Results don’t always match expectations.
On workdays, men and women were found to have a relatively fair balance of work, housework, childcare, and relaxation. On days off however, the divide grew. In the first few months after childbirth, the study found women spent 46-49 minutes relaxing on days off from work. Men, on the other hand, spent 101 minutes – over twice as long.
On weekends and holidays while spouses provided childcare, men reported relaxing about 46% of the time while women relaxed only 16%. Similar results were found while partners did housework. Fathers relaxed 35% of the time mothers maintained the home while mothers relaxed only 19% of the time fathers worked on the home.
What’s more, dads tended to have more of the fun child care tasks. They did more of the playing peek-a-boo and reading stories to children while moms did more of the dressing and bathing types of childcare.
While this study focused on parents with newborn through three month olds, one might guess such patterns continue as children grow. With working mothers focused more on home than working fathers, is it any wonder that there might be a wage gap or that more women eventually leave the full-time workforce to raise children? If the extended effort women put in at home affects job performance, it could easily explain why some studies report women earn less.
It could also explain why mommy burnout has become a greater concern in recent years and why there is such a need for moms, who usually take care of everyone else, to learn self-care.
The Importance of Celebrating Labor Day as a Mom
There are probably an infinite number of reasons mothers report doing more than fathers when it comes to housework and childcare. Genetically men and women are wired differently, and, despite what liberal policies try to force us to believe, women are generally more nurturing and home-based. Men are still predatory hunters. They are designed to be leaders, protectors, and providers. Women are still growers and gatherers. They are the nurturers, care-givers, and helpers.
Neither is a role of weakness. Both require commitment, sacrifice, and strength. They are equal, but different. Even in modern society, those innate differences come out in the workforce and in the home.
Some of this imbalance women may need to take responsibility for. Women can be critical of a man’s help around the house. Mothers often cringe when fathers roughhouse with children. They tend to raise an eyebrow when fathers dress children in appalling outfits. They lecture as superiors fathers who feed kids a bowl of Oreos and milk for breakfast. Some women may need to let go some of their need to control the home.
An entire study could be done on why the division of labor still seems off when it comes to parenting and housework. The important thing for moms and dads now though is to recognize that there is an unfair division of power in most American households and that moms need a break.
Moms need to celebrate Labor Day with some time off.
Moms need to celebrate Labor Day too. That doesn’t mean mom gets a day off work to clean the house, do the grocery shopping, prepare salads, desserts, and more for a barbecue where dad throws some meat on a grill basks in compliments for a great dinner.
Moms need a genuine day off. More than that, moms need consistent time to rejuvenate, refresh, and regroup. They need to have fun with girlfriends and time alone. They need to get out and exercise and breath fresh air. They need time to curl up with a good book or a chick flick that dads and kids just can’t understand.
Moms need time to challenge themselves and learn something new and difficult. Moms may choose anything from learning a new language to rock climbing. They may decide to take an expensive course for an advanced degree just because they want to or they may decide to take a free class through a local school’s continuing education department because it sounds like fun.
The possibilities are endless, and the rewards are endless too!
We’ve all heard the saying, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” The converse is true as well. If mama is happy then everyone is (more likely) to be happy! Yes!
A happy woman makes a happy home.
If you are a mom, take this Labor Day to commit to making time for yourself this upcoming school year. Start now to develop good habits for self-care that become second nature to you and your family. You may have to put your foot down gently and ask dad to step up a bit more, but your family will learn that mom-time is important.
By investing in yourself, you will teach your daughters to value themselves and your sons how to treat their wives. You will feel refreshed and more ready to greet your husband with loving confidence, open arms, and a soft heart.
Decide what you need to be your best self and then be realistic about what you and your family can do. It might be nice to have an hour to yourself everyday to read a good book in a candlelit bubble bath, but setting that expectation is probably asking for failure. On the other hand, saying you will do this once a month may be just right as long as you also include short refreshers in between. Even ten minutes of alone time or self-care a day changes one’s outlook. It clears thinking for the present and provides hope for the future.
Moms often want husbands to read their minds and provide them with a Labor-free Day. Men seldom think that way. They need a MAJOR hint. Better yet, they need you to tell them you are taking time off and why. This is not because men don’t care. It’s simply because they are wired differently. Don’t get insulted, huffy, or resentful. Simply use this Labor Day to take inventory of your life and what you’d enjoy or relax doing. Then carve out some time to do it! Yes, even on Labor Day, on a post about moms taking a break moms need to take charge. That’s okay. In the long run you and your family will be happy you did!
In the meantime, this Labor Day spend a few minutes remembering the joy of the labor that means the most to each mom – the labor of love that brought your children into this world. Spend a few seconds reflecting on what that day was like. Savor the hopes and joy and love of that day in your heart. Then spend a few minutes journaling about it or sharing those special memories with your husband and children. Even hardened teenagers will love to hear how much you felt for their innocence!
Strahlen Grace Life Coaching
If you’d like help rediscovering what you’d enjoy doing, understanding your husband and children, getting ahead in your finances, housework, or relationships, I’d love to work with you! Please reach out using the form below or send me an email at SingleMomSmiling@hotmail.com.